Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1143
Pan Viadomsky had a peculiar reputation in Warsaw. He was generally accounted a great classical scholar—and a trickster. He earlier had been a frequent contributor to the journals of Latin and Greek, and often he settled controversial matters with a curiously minute and cunning knowledge of the ancients. After several years, however, he went too far: he talked and wrote of hidden or obscure events with a maddening air of superiority. He announced the discovery of ancient manuscripts, but he would allow no competent scholar to examine the documents.
On an expedition to Mediterranean lands, Pan Viadomsky pretended that he had found old documents of great worth. Some of his colleagues, however, found him in the company of a notorious forger. The learned world then began to discount Pan’s scholarship, and gradually many people thought of him as a simple trickster.
Still, Jochanan the Jew was glad to work with Pan, even though he was a vindictive anti-Semite, after Jochanan had heard of Pan’s Hebrew manuscript and of his desire for a Hebrew scholar to read it with him. Jochanan became well acquainted with the famous Pan, even indispensable to him and his efforts, and little by little a strange friendship grew between them. On his side, Pan sneered at all Jews, but he sometimes made an exception for Jochanan; on his side, Jochanan was awestruck by Pan’s detailed knowledge of Jewish history, particularly of the time of Christ.
One day, almost against his will, Pan told part of his secret, the source of his detailed and exact knowledge. He announced that he was in reality the reincarnation of the Hegemon of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate’s right-hand man. At first, Jochanan took the story for an old man’s babbling, but he listened to the tale with increasing belief.
Pontius Pilate had been a great soldier of Rome, one of the best lieutenants of Germanicus. In Rome, however, Pilate discredited his former commander, and doughty Germanicus retired from official life as a ruined man. Then Pilate cast covetous eyes on Judea, a poor place, but a land where he could get rich through bribery. He sought and won the hand of Claudia, the debauched daughter of Tiberius Caesar. After the marriage, Pilate was appointed Procurator of Judea. He took with him his friend, a young soldier, as Hegemon of Jerusalem.
Once in Jerusalem, Pilate ordered the Hegemon to display the hated Roman eagle in the sacred temple of the Jews. The pious Jews were astounded and aroused, for by law, Roman authority did not extend to religious matters. Yet Pilate was firm, and the Hegemon cruelly beat back the attempts of the Jews to storm his fortress. At last, the Jews gave in, and the crafty High Priest of the Temple paid an enormous bribe to Pilate.
Afterward, the Hegemon visited around in Judea a great deal. He met and was drawn to the great courtesan and dancer, Miriam of Migdal. He was in the castle of Herod Antipater that infamous night when Salome danced, and the Hegemon saw the head of Jochanan the Baptist brought in on a platter. He visited K’far Nahum and heard the new Rabbi Yeshua preach. The Hegemon was strangely drawn to this young rabbi of Nazareth, but a real Roman could not deign to listen to a poor Jew, the fanatical son of a carpenter.
Jochanan had to believe Pan, this scholar who knew so much. Pan Viadomsky was really the Hegemon come back to life.
Now that the secret was out, Pan finally showed him his great manuscript. Jochanan looked at the strange document with wonder, and then he examined it with searching care. There could be no doubt that it was in fact what Pan said it was. Jochanan had before him the true manuscript that had been carefully deposited in the tomb-cave of Sepphoris in Galilee. It was the record of Judah Ish-Kiriot, written with his own hand, the story of Judah’s time with Yeshua. Through reading it, Jochanan learned more of the great story.
Judah was young and impetuous, and he followed his Rabbi Yeshua with much love. In return, Yeshua made Judah treasurer for the little band of disciples.
Judah went everywhere with Yeshua. He even went on that terrible journey into Zidon, where Yeshua was appalled at the sin and suffering and shame of the gentiles. On their return to Jerusalem, Yeshua preached with more learning and purity than before. When Yeshua preached before Pharisees and Sadducees, he was especially inspired.
The small band of twelve grew in number. Miriam, Yeshua’s mother, came to be near her son, and Miriam of Migdal repented of her sins and ministered to the needs of Yeshua. Yet there was always fear among them. Was Yeshua really the Messiah? Would he deliver Judea from the Romans?
Here the manuscript broke off. When he had finished the reading, Jochanan was troubled. Why did these scenes seem so real? Pan Viadomsky’s face peered forth through a haze, and Pan’s look was triumphant. So that was it! Jochanan had a vivid racial memory of that other Jochanan, the young pupil of Nicodemon.
With the transformation backward in time, Jochanan and the Hegemon finished together, from their joint memories, the story of Yeshua.
Judah had been one of Rabbi Nicodemon’s pupils, but he spent more and more time with Yeshua. Judah was sure Yeshua was the Messiah, and that impetuous feeling finally led him to point out Yeshua for the Romans. Judah did it merely to test his rabbi; he expected Yeshua to annihilate the Romans.
The Hegemon had been perturbed by Yeshua. He thought the rabbi was inciting the people to rebellion. The Hegemon went to the High Priest and demanded that Yeshua be tried for treason. Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees agreed that Yeshua was innocent of any crime, but under the urging of the Hegemon, the High Priest brought Yeshua before Pilate. Pilate, little aware of what was going on, hesitated to order Yeshua’s crucifixion. He decided to let the people choose whether Yeshua or Bar Abba, a robber, should be released. When the crowd shouted for the release of Bar Abba, Pilate had no choice. He ordered the Hegemon to crucify Yeshua. With zest and Roman thoroughness, the Hegemon carried out the sentence.
Now the story was over. Pan Viadomsky sank back exhausted. Jochanan was still in a whirl, trying to separate the old from the new.
Then Pan confessed the rest of his secret. At the crucifixion, Yeshua had conquered the Hegemon’s spirit. As retribution and penance, the Hegemon’s soul remained on earth, inhabiting different bodies. Now Pan Viadomsky was ready to die, but his spirit would stay on in another body. The Hegemon of Jerusalem had to live forever.